Northern Virginia community theaters have offered some remarkable musical entertainment in recent weeks.
Springfield's "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?" is an overall delight, and continues the improved standard of production set at that theater this year by "Rashomon."
The Elden Street Players' "Working," performed by our working neighbors, had an energetic innocence and vigor that was touchingly apt. A professional production might be slicker, but it would be hard to find a show with more heart.
And now, The Little Theatre of Alexandria presents "A Chorus Line," interestingly another musical about people who are not stars.
Musicals in general will present a mixed menu of achievements -- what is not strong in acting can be forgiven in a beautiful song -- but "A Chorus Line" demands perfect dancing. It is, after all, about the chorus line of a Broadway show.
This show engages us on two levels. We get to know the faces behind the line: their hopes, their needs, and in some cases painful details of their most private moments. At the same time, we watch them learn the songs and dances they will eventually perform in the show. Because we get to know these people, we are distressed for those who are "cut," and rejoice for those who stay. Those who leave are not faceless to us.
We have learned through numbers such as "I Hope I Get It," "I Can Do That" and "The Music and The Mirror" the importance of the job for the dancer.
Yes, it's bread and butter, and many are desperate for a job. But "A Chorus Line" brings home artists' true need to practice their art: their identity is only reconfirmed in that activity.
This is, as shows go, enormous, and in a fine company several deserve special recognition.
Susan Herndon Brock plays Cassie, and is also responsible for the choreography. One might legitimately entertain doubts that a community theater could approximate a Broadway chorus line. Brock has achieved it, and her work for all dancers is excellent throughout. Her own dancing in "The Music and The Mirror" is beautiful, fresh and technically thrilling.
Edward H. Colahan (Mike) swings through a charming "I Can Do That." Lisa Campanella (Sheila), Dorothy L. Barton (BeeBee) and Amy Robinson (Maggie) are marvelous individually, and together in "At the Ballet." Rob Shumaker as Mark, Robert R. Long II as Richie, Ed Ratcliffe as Don and Michael Glock as Greg all have shining moments.
Beth McEwen's "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three" is splendid and would be enhanced by softer musical support. Andrea Almeida-Alston is a good Diana, but there are strange notes in "What I Did For Love."
Highest acting honors, from one whose dancing would suffice, go to Kerry deMatteis, in Paul's account of his past nights of dancing to Zack, played here with generous restraint by Steve Manuel.
"A Chorus Line" as directed by Curt Somers is a celebration of what our older generation respectfully called "The Hoofer."
I hope there is not a red-blooded American anywhere who could be unmoved at the sight of 25 dancers singing and dancing in perfect synchronization in "A Chorus Line's" glorious finale "One."
Which brings me to my final criticism. The Little Theatre audience is accustomed to good productions, but last Thursday's bland audience seemed not to realize how polished this production is. It was as if, accustomed to colorful sparklers, they did not recognize a rocket. "A Chorus Line" is playing at The Little Theatre of Alexandria through Saturday. For ticket information, call 683-0496.